Voici une liste de publications représentatives, organisée par année de parution. Pour une liste complète, voir mon CV.
Clin, E., & Kissine, M. (2023). Neurotypical, but not autistic, adults might experience distress when looking at someone avoiding eye contact: A live face-to-face paradigm. Autism, online first.
Many autistics report being distressed by eye contact, but eye-tracking studies suggest that eye contact is associated with hypo-arousal rather than hyper-arousal in autism. Within a live face-to-face paradigm combining a wearable eye-tracker with electrodermal activity sensors, 80 adults (40 autistics) defined words in front of an experimenter either staring at their eyes (direct gaze condition) or looking elsewhere (averted gaze condition). Autistics did not differ from neurotypicals in their eye behaviours nor their skin conductance responses. Autistics did not appear distressed when they were looking at the experimenter’s eyes in the direct gaze condition. However, neurotypicals, compared to autistics, might experience more stress when looking at the experimenter in the averted gaze condition, even after controlling for social anxiety and alexithymia. In comparison to autistics, neurotypicals might be hyper-aroused when they look at someone avoiding eye contact. Based on a bidirectional perspective on interactional difficulties in autism, we speculate that the neurotypicals’ distress when their attempts to eye contact are not reciprocated could make their behaviour insistent, which, in turn, could make the autistics uncomfortable. In our study, participants’ partner remained passive, displaying no specific reaction when a mutual gaze was shared or not. Future studies should test different partner reactions to gaze in various social contexts.
Kissine, M., & De Brabanter, P. (2023). Pragmatic responses to under-informative some-statements are not scalar implicatures. Cognition, 237, 105463.
A highly emblematic paradigm in experimental pragmatics consists in presenting participants with an existentially quantified sentence of the form ‘Some X are Y’ in a context in which all X are obviously Y. Participants who reject such sentences as false or infelicitous are said to adopt a ‘pragmatic’ instead of a ‘logical’ reading of some, and to derive the scalar implicature ‘Some, but not all X are Y’. Although there are several competing accounts of scalar implicatures, virtually all of them assume that a participant who responds pragmatically to an under-informative some-sentence mentally entertains a linguistic representation of the negation of a stronger alternative (‘All X are Y’). Yet, there is no evidence that judging an under-informative ‘some’-sentence false or infelicitous actually involves the derivation of the ‘some, but not all’ scalar implicature. We report three experiments consisting of a sentence-picture verification task followed by a forced choice between two paraphrases of the sentence initially assessed. These experiments robustly show that hearers who reject an under-informative ‘some’-sentence do so without explicitly entertaining a ‘some, but not all’ implicature. Our results represent a strong challenge for grammatical accounts of scalar implicature, which all presuppose a mechanism of negation of stronger alternatives, and force a drastic reinterpretation of processing data on scalar implicatures. More generally, our findings show that one should not conflate psychological models of pragmatic processing with a reconstructed link between sentences and their potential meanings.
Maes, P., Weyland, M., & Kissine, M. (2022). Describing (pre)linguistic oral productions in 3- to 5-year-old autistic children: A cluster analysis. Autism, online first.
In many autistic children, speech onset is delayed and expressive language emerges after 3 years of age. We qualitatively and quantitatively describe oral productions of autistic preschoolers, including many non- or minimally speaking, recorded during interactions with a caregiver and with an experimenter. Data clustering on manually coded oral production samples indicates five validated linguistic profiles of oral production in this diverse and inclusive sample (n = 59) of 3- to 5-year-old autistic children with highly variable expressive language abilities. These profiles are then compared on a series of demographic (age, socioeconomic status) and psychometric (autism severity, nonverbal and verbal IQ) measures, as well as on additional measures of language (expressive vocabulary, phonetic inventories). Two clusters are composed of speaking autistic children, while the three others comprise non- or minimally speaking children with qualitatively different patterns of vocal productions. The five-profile division suggests that traditional binary division of speaking vs nonspeaking children does not do justice to the complexity of early expressive language in autism.
Geelhand, P., Papastamou, F., Deliens, G., & Kissine, M. (2021). Judgments of spoken discourse and impression formation of neurotypical and autistic adults. Research in Autism Spectrum Disorders, 82, 101742.
Background Studies on impression formation in Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) have suggested that both ASD and neurotypical (NT) individuals extract paralinguistic cues (e.g., vocal and facial expressions) from brief extracts of social behaviors to form less favorable impressions of the personality traits of ASD individuals than of their NT peers. Yet, discourse studies in ASD have also suggested that there are specific linguistic features (e.g., conjunctions) that can distinguish the speech of ASD individuals from that of NT individuals. This study investigates whether naïve participants with and without autism can perceive discourse features previously identified as characteristic of ASD speech, based on a single exposure to conversation extracts. Methods A cross-design rating experiment was created whereby a group of ASD and NT adults (blind to diagnosis information) rated audio recordings involving ASD and NT speakers. Rating participants evaluated the recordings using a Likert scale targeting impressions of discourse features. Results ASD and NT Raters behaved similarly on the ratings of discourse features; evaluating the speech of ASD Speakers less favorably than those of NT Speakers. Conclusion Our results extend previous findings by showing that linguistic cues also lead to less favorable impressions of the discourse of ASD Speakers, and this from both the perspective of NT and ASD Raters.
Geelhand, P., Papastamou, F., & Kissine, M. (2021). How do autistic adults use syntactic and prosodic cues to manage spoken discourse? Clinical Linguistics & Phonetics, 35(12), 1184–1209.
Discourse studies investigating differences in the socio-communicative profiles of autistic (ASD) and neurotypical (NT) individuals have mostly relied on orthographic transcriptions, without taking prosodic information into account. However, atypical prosody is ubiquitous in ASD and a more accurate representation of their discourse abilities should also include prosodic cues. This exploratory study addresses this gap by segmenting the spoken discourse of 12 ASD and NT adults using the framework of Basic Discourse Units (BDUs). BDUs result from the mapping of syntactic boundaries on prosodic units, which can coincide in different ways and are associated with different discourse strategies. We hypothesized that the discourse of ASD adults would display more atypical strategies than NT adults, reflecting a ‘pedantic’ style and more difficulties in managing ongoing discourse. While ASD adults did not produce more discourse units associated with didactic or pedantic strategies than NT adults, they did produce less units associated with strategies of interactional regulation. This study provides initial evidence that multidimensional linguistic units, such as BDUs can help differentiate speech delivery strategies of ASD adults from those of their NT peers, even based on simple prosodic cues like silent pauses.
Kissine, M. (2021). Facing the complexity of language in autism (Response to commentators). Language, 97(3), e228–e237.
This is a response to comments on the target paper ’Autism, constructionism, and nativism’.
Kissine, M. (2021). Autism, constructionism, and nativism. Language, 97(3), e139–e160.
The goal of this article is to provide a balanced assessment of the significance autism has for the scientific study of language. While linguistic profiles in autism vary greatly, spanning from a total absence of functional language to verbal levels within the typical range, the entire autism spectrum is robustly characterized by lifelong disabilities in intersubjective communication and per- sistent difficulties in adopting the perspective of other people. In that sense, autism constitutes a unique profile in which linguistic competence is dissociated from communication skills. Somewhat paradoxically, autism is often mentioned to underscore the importance of mind reading for language use and of intersubjective communication for the emergence of language. Yet experimental studies on pragmatics in autism indicate that many pragmatic processes unfold without adopting one’s conversational partner’s perspective. Moreover, the patterns of language acquisition and learning in autism represent a strong challenge to the central role constructionist theories assign to socio-communicative skills. Data on autism thus force a reconsideration of the a priori conceptual boundaries on language learnability that shape the foundational debates between constructionist and nativist linguistic theories.
Kissine, M., Bertels, J., Deconinck, N., Passeri, G., & Deliens, G. (2021). Audio-visual integration in nonverbal or minimally verbal young autistic children. Journal of Experimental Psychology: General, 150(10), 2137–2157.
Low integration of speech sounds with the mouth movements likely contributes to language acquisition disabilities that frequently characterize young autistic children. However, the existing empirical evidence either relies on complex verbal instructions or merely focuses on preferential gaze on in-synch videos. The former method is clearly unadapted for young, minimally, or nonverbal autistic children, while the latter has several biases, making it difficult to interpret the data. We designed a Reinforced Preferential Gaze paradigm that allows to test multimodal integration in young, nonverbal autistic children and overcomes several of the methodological challenges faced by previous studies. We show that autistic children have difficulties in temporally binding the speech signal with the corresponding articulatory gestures. A condition with structurally similar nonsocial video stimuli suggests that atypical multimodal integration in autism is not limited to speech stimuli.
Kissine, M., Geelhand, P., Philippart De Foy, M., Harmegnies, B., & Deliens, G. (2021). Phonetic Inflexibility in Autistic Adults. Autism Research, 14(6), 1186–1196.
This study examined whether the atypical speech style that is frequently reported in autistic adults is underpinned by an inflexible production of phonetic targets. In a first task, 20 male autistic adults and 20 neuro-typicals had to read and produce native vowels. To assess the extent to which phonetic inflexibility is due to an overall fine-grained control of phonetic behavior or to a lack of flexibility in the realization of one’s phonological repertoire, the second task asked participants to reproduce artificial vowel-like sounds. Results confirmed the presence of a greater articulatory stability in the production of native vowels in autistic adults. When instructed to imitate artificial vowel-like sounds, the autistic group did not better approximate the targets’ acoustic properties relative to neuro-typicals but their performance at reproducing artificial vowels was less variable and influenced to a greater extent by the articulatory properties of their own vocalic space. These findings suggest that the greater articulatory stability observed in autistic adults arises from a lack of flexibility in the production of their own native vowels. The two phonetic tasks are devoid of any pragmatic constraint, which indicates that phonetic inflexibility in autism is partly independent of register selection. Lay Summary: Autistic and neuro-typical adults took part in two tasks: one in which they produced vowels from French, their native tongue, and the other where they imitated unfamiliar vowels. Autistic adults displayed significantly less variation in their production of different French vowels. In imitating unfamiliar vowels, they were more influenced by the way they pronounce French vowels. These results suggest that the atypical speech style, frequently attested in autistic individuals, could stem from an unusually stable pronunciation of speech sounds.
Maes, P., Stercq, F., & Kissine, M. (2021). Attention to intentional versus incidental pointing gestures in young autistic children: An eye-tracking study. Journal of Experimental Child Psychology, 210, 105205.
Whereas a reduced tendency to follow pointing gestures is described as an early sign of autism, the literature on response to joint attention indicates that autistic children perform better when a point is added to other social cues such as eye gaze. The purpose of this study was to explore pointing processing in autism when it is the only available cue and to investigate whether autistic children discriminate intentional pointing gestures from incidental pointing gestures. Eye movements of 58 autistic children (48 male) and 61 typically developing children (36 male) aged 3–5 years were recorded as the children were watching videos of a person uttering a pseudoword and pointing intentionally with one hand and incidentally with the other hand. After 3 s, two different potential referents for the pseudoword gradually emerged in both pointed-at corners. In comparison with typically developing children, autistic children’s fixations were significantly farther away from both pointed-at zones. Upon hearing a novel word, typically developing children shifted their visual attention toward the zone pointed intentionally. This trend did not emerge in the group of autistic children regardless of their level of vocabulary. Autistic children, independently of their level of language, pay little attention to pointing when no other social cues are available and fail to discriminate intentional pointing gestures from incidental ones. They seem to grasp neither the spatial nor the social value of pointing.
van Tiel, B., Deliens, G., Geelhand, P., Murillo Oosterwijk, A., & Kissine, M. (2021). Strategic Deception in Adults with Autism Spectrum Disorder. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, 51(1), 255–266.
Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is often associated with impaired perspective-taking skills. Deception is an important indicator of perspective-taking, and therefore may be thought to pose difficulties to people with ASD (e.g., Baron-Cohen in J Child Psychol Psychiatry 3:1141–1155, 1992). To test this hypothesis, we asked participants with and without ASD to play a computerised deception game. We found that participants with ASD were equally likely—and in complex cases of deception even more likely—to deceive and detect deception, and learned deception at a faster rate. However, participants with ASD initially deceived less frequently, and were slower at detecting deception. These results suggest that people with ASD readily engage in deception but may do so through conscious and effortful reasoning about other people’s perspective.
Antoniou, K., Veenstra, A., Kissine, M., & Katsos, N. (2020). How does childhood bilingualism and bi-dialectalism affect the interpretation and processing of pragmatic meanings? Bilingualism: Language and Cognition, 23(1), 186–203.
Recent research has reported superior socio-communicative skills in bilingual children. We examined the hypothesis of a bilingual pragmatic advantage by testing bilingual, bi-dialectal and monolingual children on the comprehension and processing of various pragmatic meanings: relevance, scalar, contrastive, manner implicatures, novel metaphors and irony. Pragmatic responses were slower than literal responses to control items. Furthermore, children were least accurate with metaphors and irony. Metaphors and irony were also the most difficult to process; for these meanings, pragmatic responses were slower than literal responses to the same critical items. Finally, pragmatic performance positively correlated with working memory. Despite this variation, we found no bilingual or bi-dialectal advantage over monolinguals in pragmatic responses or speed of pragmatic processing. This was also true despite bilinguals’ and bi-dialectals’ lower vocabularies as measured by formal tests. We conclude that bilingual children exhibit monolingual-like pragmatic interpretation, despite their often-reported weaker language knowledge in the target language.
Clin, E., Maes, P., Stercq, F., & Kissine, M. (2020). No preference for direct versus averted gaze in autistic adults: a reinforced preferential looking paradigm. Molecular Autism, 11(1), 91.
Background: With the overarching objective to gain better insights into social attention in autistic adults, the present study addresses three outstanding issues about face processing in autism. First, do autistic adults display a preference for mouths over eyes; second, do they avoid direct gaze; third, is atypical visual exploration of faces in autism mediated by gender, social anxiety or alexithymia? Methods: We used a novel reinforced preferential looking paradigm with a group of autistic adults (n = 43, 23 women) pairwise matched on age with neurotypical participants (n = 43, 21 women). Participants watched 28 different pairs of 5 s video recordings of a speaking person: the two videos, simultaneously displayed on the screen, were identical except that gaze was directed at the camera in one video and averted in the other. After a 680 ms transition phase, a short reinforcement animation appeared on the side that had displayed the direct gaze. Results: None of the groups showed a preference for mouths over eyes. However, neurotypical participants fixated significantly more the stimuli with direct gaze, while no such preference emerged in autistic participants. As the experiment progressed, neurotypical participants also increasingly anticipated the appearance of the reinforcement, based on the location of the stimulus with the direct gaze, while no such anticipation emerged in autistic participants. Limitations: Our autistic participants scored higher on the social anxiety and alexithymia questionnaires than neu-rotypicals. Future studies should match neurotypical and autistic participants on social anxiety and alexithymia and complement questionnaires with physiological measures of anxiety. Conclusions: The absence of preference for direct versus averted gaze in the autistic group is probably due to difficulties in distinguishing eye gaze direction, potentially linked to a reduced spontaneous exploration or avoidance of the eye region. Social attention and preference for direct versus averted gaze correlated with alexithymia and social anxiety scores, but not gender.
Geelhand, P., Papastamou, F., Deliens, G., & Kissine, M. (2020). Narrative production in autistic adults: A systematic analysis of the microstructure, macrostructure and internal state language. Journal of Pragmatics, 164, 57–81.
While narrative competence has been well documented in autistic children and young adolescents, fairly little is known about narrative performance of autistic adults. However, narrative abilities continue to develop well into adulthood. Hence, the main objective of the present study is to provide a clearer linguistic and communicative profile of ASD in adulthood by performing a systematic description of narrative performance in autistic adults. A specific annotation scheme was developed to code narrative production, in order to be able to compare the production of autistic participants to pairwise matched neurotypical adults relative to microstructure (syntactic complexity), macrostructure (overall story structure and cohesive ties) and internal state language of the corpus’ narratives. The results suggest that autistic adults performed worse than their neurotypical peers on all three dimensions of narrative production, resulting in less coherent narratives overall for autistic adults.
Kissine, M., & Pantazi, M. (2020). Pragmatic Accommodation. In D. Gutzmann, L. Matthewson, C. Meier, H. Rullmann, & T. E. Zimmerman (Eds.), The Wiley Blackwell Companion to Semantics (pp. 1–16). Wiley.
Under the standard Lewis–Stalnaker view, accommodation is a pragmatic solution to a coordination problem. Accommodation processes are triggered when a speaker uses an expression that requires that the conversational background contain some hitherto unmentioned information. Accommodation, then, is not automatic; it is a process addressees engage in to adjust to the course of conversation. However, it is not entirely straightforward to predict when or which presuppositions will be accommodated. This issue is complicated by the existence of so-called informative presuppositions, which carry new and at-issue information. On the one hand, recent crosslinguistic and experimental research programs suggest that acceptability of presupposition accommodation varies relative to the kind of presupposition trigger involved. On the other hand, there exists a whole tradition in experimental social psychology which suggests that presuppositions are automatically accommodated, even though they are false.
Pantazi, M., Klein, O., & Kissine, M. (2020). Is justice blind or myopic? An examination of the effects of meta-cognitive myopia and truth bias on mock jurors and judges. Judgment and Decision Making, 15(2), 214–229.
Previous studies have shown that people are truth-biased in that they tend to believe the information they receive, even if it is clearly flagged as false. The truth bias has been recently proposed to be an instance of meta-cognitive myopia, that is, of a generalized human insensitivity towards the quality and correctness of the information available in the environment. In two studies we tested whether meta-cognitive myopia and the ensuing truth bias may operate in a courtroom setting. Based on a well-established paradigm in the truth-bias literature, we asked mock jurors (Study 1) and professional judges (Study 2) to read two crime reports containing aggravating or mitigating information that was explicitly flagged as false. Our findings suggest that jurors and judges are truth-biased, as their decisions and memory about the cases were affected by the false information. We discuss the implications of the potential operation of the truth bias in the courtroom, in the light of the literature on inadmissible and discredible evidence, and make some policy suggestions.
Geelhand, P., Bernard, P., Klein, O., Van Tiel, B., & Kissine, M. (2019). The role of gender in the perception of autism symptom severity and future behavioral development. Molecular Autism, 10(1).
Background: Increasing attention is being paid to the higher prevalence of boys with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) and to the implications of this ratio discrepancy on our understanding of autism in girls. One recent avenue of research has focused on caregiver’s concern, suggesting that autism might present differently in boys and girls. One unexplored factor related to concerns on child development is whether socio-cultural factors such as gender-related expectations influence the evaluation of symptom severity and predictions about future behavioral development. Methods: The latter concerns were the focus of the present study and were explored by investigating laypeople’s judgment of the severity of autism symptoms using an online parent role-playing paradigm, in which participants were asked to rate vignettes depicting the behaviors of a child in different everyday life scenarios. The child’s gender and the severity of ASD symptoms were manipulated to examine the effect of gender on the perception of symptom severity. Results: Results suggest that there are no gender differences in perceived symptom severity and associated degree of concern for 5-year-old boys and girls but that there is a gender difference in perceived future atypicality at 15 years old, with boys being rated as more likely to be perceived as atypical by their peers at that age than girls. Conclusions: Investigating parent’s cognition about their child’s future behavioral development can provide additional information regarding delayed diagnosis of autistic girls.
Geurts, B., Kissine, M., & van Tiel, B. (2019). Pragmatic reasoning in autism. In K. Moranyi & R. Byrne (Eds.), Thinking, Reasoning, and Decision Making in Autism (pp. 113–134). Routledge.
One line of explanation which has been particularly influential links the pragmatic deficits in autism with the reduced ability to attribute mental states to oneself and others, an ability that is variously known as “mind reading,” “theory of mind,” “mentalizing,” and “folk psychology. Of course, pragmatic difficulties in autism also surface on the production side, most notably in the management of conversation dynamics and social interaction. Irony may be one of the most complex pragmatic phenomena, as it is defined by a conflict between literal and conveyed meaning, in some respect or other. In some cases at least, reversing the literal interpretation and getting to the ironic meaning requires that the speaker’s intentions be taken into account. Pragmatic theories make various distinctions between types of communicative skills and sub-skills, and there is a certain amount of consensus on what the key distinctions are.
Jary, M., & Kissine, M. (2019). Mood and the Analysis of Imperative Sentences. In K. Scott, B. Clark, & R. Carston (Eds.), Relevance: Pragmatics and Interpretation (pp. 115–126). Cambridge University Press.
Jary and Kissine examine the meaning of imperative sentences, taking the existing relevance-theoretic semantic analysis, in terms of the desirability and potentiality of the described state of affairs, as their point of departure. In their view, a complete account of the interpretation of imperatives has to explain how they can result in the addressee forming an intention to perform an action, and this requires the theory to make room for ‘action representations’ (in addition to factual representations, such as assumptions). They claim that the imperative form is uniquely specified to interface with such action representations.
Kissine, M., & Geelhand, P. (2019). Brief Report: Acoustic Evidence for Increased Articulatory Stability in the Speech of Adults with Autism Spectrum Disorder. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, 49(6), 2572–2580.
Subjective impressions of speech delivery in Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) as monotonic or over-precise are widespread but still lack robust acoustic evidence. This study provides a detailed acoustic characterization of the specificities of speech in individuals with ASD using an extensive sample of speech data, from the production of narratives and from spontaneous conversation. Syllable-level analyses (30,843 tokens in total) were performed on audio recordings from two sub-tasks of the Autism Diagnostic Observation Schedule from 20 adults with ASD and 20 pairwise matched neuro-typical adults, providing acoustic measures of fundamental frequency, jitter, shimmer and the first three formants. The results suggest that participants with ASD display a greater articulatory stability in vowel production than neuro-typical participants, both in phonation and articulatory gestures.
Kissine, M., Luffin, X., Aiad, F., Bourourou, R., Deliens, G., & Gaddour, N. (2019). Noncolloquial Arabic in Tunisian Children With Autism Spectrum Disorder: A Possible Instance of Language Acquisition in a Noninteractive Context. Language Learning, 69(1), 44–70.
Language Learning Research Club, University of Michigan We have documented the significant presence of spontaneous and productive use of Modern Standard Arabic (MSA) in the speech of five Tunisian boys with autism, an unusual phenomenon. In typical development, MSA is not fully acquired before the late school years. The Arabic language in Tunisia is in a state of diglossia, and (unlike the colloquial Tunisian Arabic variety) MSA is virtually never used in everyday conversation. Television programs broadcast across the Arabic-speaking world constitute the most important source of MSA for preschool children. Typically developing children require active social interaction to develop language, but some children with autism may use television and cartoons as noninteractional input to acquire language. This study highlighted the existence of a noninteractional language-learning strategy that may partly compensate for the sociopragmatic deficits that characterize autism.
Ostashchenko, E., Deliens, G., Geelhand, P., Bertels, J., & Kissine, M. (2019). Referential processing in 3- and 5-year-old children is egocentrically anchored. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory, and Cognition, 45(8), 1387–1397.
An ongoing debate in the literature on language acquisition is whether preschool children process reference in an egocentric way or whether they spontaneously and by-default take their partner’s perspective into account. The reported study implements a computerized referential task with a controlled trial presentation and simple verbal instructions. Contrary to the predictions of the partner-specific view, entrained referential precedents give rise to faster processing for 3- and 5-year-old children, independently of whether the conversational partner is the same as in the lexical entrainment phase or not. Additionally, both age groups display a processing preference for the interaction with the same partner, be it for new or previously used referential descriptions. These results suggest that preschool children may adapt to their conversational partner; however, partner-specificity is encoded as low-level auditory-phonological priming rather than through inferences about a partner’s perspective.
Ostashchenko, E., Geelhand, P., Deliens, G., & Kissine, M. (2019). Struggling with alternative descriptions: Impaired referential processing in children with Autism Spectrum Disorder. Research in Autism Spectrum Disorders, 66, 101414.
Background: Children and adults with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) show a tendency to preferentially rely on those referential descriptions that have previously been used by their conversational partner. However, such a tendency may become maladaptive in a situation of interaction with different partners who may introduce alternative lexical descriptions for the same referent. Methods: Six-year-old children with ASD, as well as mental- and verbal-age-matched typically developing (TD) children moved items on a touch-screen following instructions by an experimenter. During the entrainment phase, the experimenter introduced lexical descriptions for all the items. Then, either the original experimenter or a new partner, depending on the condition, used alternative descriptions for some items and kept the same descriptions for others. Accuracy and time to locate items were collected. Results: Relative to TD children, children with ASD had more difficulty in recognizing and interpreting referential descriptions when another description has been previously used. Whether a new description was introduced by a new or the original experimenter had no effect in any group. Conclusion: Referential processing in ASD is compromised by impaired ability to confront alternative conceptual perspectives. A potential executive source for these difficulties is discussed.
Deliens, G., Antoniou, K., Clin, E., Ostashchenko, E., & Kissine, M. (2018). Context, facial expression and prosody in irony processing. Journal of Memory and Language, 99, 35–48.
While incongruence with the background context is a powerful cue for irony, in spoken conversation ironic utterances often bear non-contextual cues, such as marked tone of voice and/or facial expression. In Experiment 1, we show that ironic prosody and facial expression can be correctly discriminated as such in a categorization task, even though the boundaries between ironic and non-ironic cues are somewhat fuzzy. However, an act-out task (Experiments 2 & 3) reveals that prosody and facial expression are considerably less reliable cues for irony comprehension than contextual incongruence. Reaction time and eye-tracking data indicate that these non-contextual cues entail a trade-off between accuracy and processing speed. These results suggest that interpreters privilege frugal, albeit less reliable pragmatic heuristics over costlier, but more reliable, contextual processing.
Deliens, G., Papastamou, F., Ruytenbeek, N., Geelhand, P., & Kissine, M. (2018). Selective Pragmatic Impairment in Autism Spectrum Disorder: Indirect Requests Versus Irony. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, 48(9), 2938–2952.
Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is often described as being characterised by a uniform pragmatic impairment. However, recent evidence suggests that some areas of pragmatic functioning are preserved. This study seeks to determine to which extent context-based derivation of non-linguistically encoded meaning is functional in ASD. We compare the performance of 24 adults with ASD, and matched neuro-typical adults in two act-out pragmatic tasks. The first task examines generation of indirect request interpretations, and the second the comprehension of irony. Intact contextual comprehension of indirect requests contrasts with marked difficulties in understanding irony. These results suggest that preserved pragmatics in ASD is limited to egocentric processing of context, which does not rely on assumptions about the speaker’s mental states.
Pantazi, M., Kissine, M., & Klein, O. (2018). The Power of the Truth Bias: False Information Affects Memory and Judgment Even in the Absence of Distraction. Social Cognition, 36(2), 167–198.
Truth bias is the tendency to believe information whether or not it is true. According to a prominent account, this tendency results from limited cognitive resources. We presented participants true and false statements organized in coherent narratives, and distracted half of the participants while they processed the statements. Our findings suggest that explicitly false statements are misremembered as true and affect participants’ judgments regardless of cognitive load (Experiments 1 & 2). Experiment 3 replicates a distraction-independent truth bias in a paradigm with an equal number of true and false statements, suggesting that the truth bias does not depend on the frequency of true versus false statements. Experiment 4 suggests that when the statements are presented in lists, as it often happens in the relevant literature, the truth bias is significantly underscored. Taken together, our results strongly support that the truth bias may be stronger than suggested by previous studies.
Veenstra, A., Antoniou, K., Katsos, N., & Kissine, M. (2018). Resisting attraction: Individual differences in executive control are associated with subject–verb agreement errors in production. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory, and Cognition, 44(8), 1242–1253.
We propose that attraction errors in agreement production (e.g., the key to the cabinets are missing) are related to two components of executive control: working memory and inhibitory control. We tested 138 children aged 10 to 12, an age when children are expected to produce high rates of errors. To increase the potential of individual variation in executive control skills, participants came from monolingual, bilingual, and bidialectal language backgrounds. Attraction errors were elicited with a picture description task in Dutch and executive control was measured with a digit span task, Corsi blocks task, switching task, and attentional networks task. Overall, higher rates of attraction errors were negatively associated with higher verbal working memory and, independently, with higher inhibitory control. To our knowledge, this is the first demonstration of the role of both working memory and inhibitory control in attraction errors in production. Implications for memory- and grammar-based models are discussed.
van Tiel, B., Noveck, I., & Kissine, M. (2018). Reasoning with ‘Some.’ Journal of Semantics, 35(4), 757–797.
There has been substantial debate about the question of whether ‘some’ is normally interpreted as ‘some but not all’ when it is embedded under a quantifying expression. Experiments using a sentence-picture verification paradigm have been equivocal: while Geurts & Pouscoulous (2009) report that embedded upper-bounded construals of ‘some’ are almost non-existent, Potts et al. (2016) observed substantial rates of upper-bounded construals in at least some embedding environments. In this paper, we investigate how it is possible that these two superficially similar studies provide such diverging sets of results. We show that subtle features of the displays influence the frequency of embedded upper-bounded construals. We discuss the consequences of these findings for theories of upper-bounded construals and for experimental research in pragmatics in general.
Van Tiel, B., & Kissine, M. (2018). Quantity-based reasoning in the broader autism phenotype: a web-based study. Applied Psycholinguistics, 39(6), 1373–1403.
We conducted a web-based study investigating whether the probability of deriving four types of pragmatic inferences depends on the degree to which one has traits associated with the autism spectrum, as measured by the autism spectrum quotient test (Baron-Cohen, Wheelwright, Skinner, Martin, & Clubley, 2001). In line with previous research, we show that, independently of their autism spectrum quotient, participants are likely to derive those pragmatic inferences that can be derived by reasoning solely about alternatives that the speaker could have used. However, if the derivation of the pragmatic inference draws upon more complex counterfactual reasoning about what the speaker could have said, the probability that it is derived decreases significantly with one’s autism quotient. We discuss the consequences for theories of pragmatics in autism and for linguistic theorizing in general.
Deliens, G., Antoniou, K., Clin, E., & Kissine, M. (2017). Perspective-taking and frugal strategies: Evidence from sarcasm detection. Journal of Pragmatics, 119, 33–45.
Prior research suggests an egocentric bias in the ability to adopt a third-person perspective in sarcastic statements. However, it remains unclear whether (1) this bias is genuinely due to egocentric anchoring or to the cost of the activation of the sarcastic interpretation; (2) context-based, allocentric processing of sarcasm can be by-passed by cheaper strategies, such as prosody processing. To settle the first question, two sarcastic conditions were compared: one, ‘egocentric’, where the favored interpretation was sarcastic only from the participant’s perspective, and another, ‘allocentric’, where the sarcastic interpretation was salient from both the addressee’s and the participant’s perspectives. To address the second question, performance in the egocentric and allocentric conditions were compared when salient prosodic cues were added. To show direct evidence for serial adjustment and to minimize the possibility of parallel processing of prosodic and contextual cues, we compare two experiments: In the first experiment, French-speaking participants had no time limit to respond, while time pressure was added in the second experiment. Results confirm that perspective-shifting is egocentrically anchored (i.e. slower reaction times and poorer accuracy for egocentric condition than allocentric one); furthermore, this egocentric bias is already evident in early stages of processing (within 3 s). We also show that perspectival assessment of contextual cues is not triggered in the presence of salient prosodic cues. Since perspective-taking is time consuming, using the non-contextual, prosodic cue is an efficient strategy to make an accurate judgment with the least processing effort.
Jary, M., & Kissine, M. (2017). Imperatives as (non-)modals. In J. Balszczak, A. Giannakidou, D. Klimek-Jankowska, & K. Migdalski (Eds.), Cross-linguistic Approaches to Tense, Aspect and Mood. Chicago Univerisyt Press.
The principal research question of this chapter is the issue of whether the imperative can be treated as a genuine modal category on the semantic side. According to the authors, the main property that speaks against such a treatment is the resistance of the imperative to truth judgments. By and large, modal categories can be easily analyzed in truth-conditional terms. Imperatives are different as they cannot be judged as true or false. This is because normally their aim is not to convey information, but merely to perform an illocutionary function through a directive speech act, such as an order, a request, or a command. Jary and Kissine scrutinize a recent modal theory of imperatives by Kaufmann (2012), which suggests that imperatives are disguised must-sentences. Elegant as Kaufmann’s account is, it does not predict the impossibility of judging an imperative as true or false. Jary and Kissine argue instead that a crucial property of imperatives is their inherent “potentiality,” that is, that they are constrained by the current situation even though they make no claims about it.
Ruytenbeek, N., Ostashchenko, E., & Kissine, M. (2017). Indirect request processing, sentence types and illocutionary forces. Journal of Pragmatics, 119, 46–62.
According to the literalist view of speech acts, morpho-syntactic sentence types are associated directly at the semantic level with an illocutionary force. By contrast, according to contextualist theories illocutionary force emerges from contexts of use. To date, however, there is little experimental evidence relevant to this debate. We propose two experimental, eye-tracking studies to test two predictions of the literalist view: First, unlike for the highly conventionalised Can you? forms, whenever a non-conventionalised construction such as Is it possible to? is interpreted as a request, its question interpretation should also be activated. Second, the directive interpretation of modal You must declaratives should activate the statement interpretation and, therefore, be costlier than that of imperatives. In Study 1, we show, first, that, in contexts where both the non-directive and directive interpretation of indirect requests are available, the latter are processed as fast as that of the corresponding imperatives, independently of the conventionalisation degree of the indirect request at hand. Second, eye fixation data show that the comprehension of indirect requests does not activate their direct meaning. Study 2 shows that modal You must declaratives are understood as imperatives and do not activate a statement interpretation; this supports the view that obligation modal requests are as direct as imperative requests.
Jary, M., & Kissine, M. (2016). When terminology matters: The imperative as a comparative concept. Linguistics, 54(1), 119.
The imperative should be thought of as a comparative concept, defined as a sentence type whose only prototypical function is the performance of the whole range of directive speech acts. Furthermore, for a non-second-person form to count as an imperative it must be homogeneous with the second-person form, thereby allowing true imperative paradigms to be distinguished from those that recruit alternative structures. This definition of the imperative sentence type allows more accurate crosslinguistic analysis of imperative paradigms, and provides principled grounds for distinguishing between imperative and so-called "hortative" and "jussive" forms. It also helps to clarify the irrealis-or better-potential status of imperatives, and suggests an explanation for the crosslinguistic variability in the non-directive occurrence of imperatives in good wishes.
Kissine, M. (2016). Non-Assertion Speech Acts. In S. Goldberg & E. Borg (Eds.), Oxfrod Handbook of Philosophy Online (Vol. 1). Oxford University Press.
This chapter is devoted to major theoretical questions surrounding non-assertion speech acts. First is addressed the distinction between institutional and non-institutional speech acts. Then, directives, questions, expressives, and commissives are discussed in turn. Each of these classes of speech acts raise specific issues, which are separately discussed. For instance, it is important to determine the exact relationship questions bear, on the one hand, to directives and, on the other hand, to assertions. It is equally important to understand whether some expressives and commissive should be thought in naturalistic terms and how they relate to other types of speech acts. The extent to which definitions directives should make reference to desire expression is also discussed. That said, the study of non-assertion speech acts is also threaded with several common themes, such as the tension between normative and intentionality approaches, and the impact of non-assertion speech acts on theories of assertion.
Kissine, M. (2016). Pragmatics as Metacognitive Control. Frontiers in Psychology, 6(2057).
The term "pragmatics" is often used to refer without distinction, on one hand, to the contextual selection of interpretation norms and, on the other hand, to the context-sensitive processes guided by these norms. Pragmatics in the first acception depends on language-independent contextual factors that can, but need not, involve Theory of Mind; in the second acception, pragmatics is a language-specific metacognitive process, which may unfold at an unconscious level without involving any mental state (meta-)representation. Distinguishing between these two kinds of ways context drives the interpretation of communicative stimuli helps dissolve the dispute between proponents of an entirely Gricean pragmatics and those who claim that some pragmatic processes do not depend on mind-reading capacities. According to the model defended in this paper, the typology of pragmatic processes is not entirely determined by a hierarchy of meanings, but by contextually set norms of interpretation.
Kissine, M., Cano-Chervel, J., Carlier, S., De Brabanter, P., Ducenne, L., Pairon, M.-C., Deconinck, N., Delvenne, V., & Leybaert, J. (2015). Children with Autism Understand Indirect Speech Acts: Evidence from a Semi-Structured Act-Out Task. PLOS ONE, 10(11), e0142191.
Children with Autism Spectrum Disorder are often said to present a global pragmatic impairment. However, there is some observational evidence that context-based comprehension of indirect requests may be preserved in autism. In order to provide experimental confirmation to this hypothesis, indirect speech act comprehension was tested in a group of 15 children with autism between 7 and 12 years and a group of 20 typically developing children between 2:7 and 3:6 years. The aim of the study was to determine whether children with autism can display genuinely contextual understanding of indirect requests. The experiment consisted of a three-pronged semi-structured task involving Mr Potato Head. In the first phase a declarative sentence was uttered by one adult as an instruction to put a garment on a Mr Potato Head toy; in the second the same sentence was uttered as a comment on a picture by another speaker; in the third phase the same sentence was uttered as a comment on a picture by the first speaker. Children with autism complied with the indirect request in the first phase and demonstrated the capacity to inhibit the directive interpretation in phases 2 and 3. TD children had some difficulty in understanding the indirect instruction in phase 1. These results call for a more nuanced view of pragmatic dysfunction in autism.
Jary, M., & Kissine, M. (2014). Imperatives. Cambridge University Press.
Imperative sentences usually occur in speech acts such as orders, requests, and pleas. However, they are also used to give advice, and to grant permission, and are sometimes found in advertisements, good wishes and conditional constructions. Yet, the relationship between the form of imperatives, and the wide range of speech acts in which they occur, remains unclear, as do the ways in which semantic theory should handle imperatives. This book is the first to look systematically at both the data and the theory. The first part discusses data from a large set of languages, including many outside the Indo-European family, and analyses in detail the range of uses to which imperatives are put, paying particular attention to controversial cases. This provides the empirical background for the second part, where the authors offer an accessible, comprehensive and in-depth discussion of the major theoretical accounts of imperative semantics and pragmatics.
Kissine, M. (2014). Will, scope and modality: a response to Broekhuis and Verkuyl. Natural Language & Linguistic Theory, 32(4), 1427–1431.
Kissine (2008) argues that English will cannot be treated as a modal without entailing absurd consequences. Broekhuis and Verkuyl (2014) object that this argument rests on faulty scope relations between negation and will. In this short squib I argue that holding both that will scopes over negation and that will is a modal leads to absurd consequences.
Kissine, M. (2013). From Utterances to Speech Acts. Cambridge University Press.
Most of the time our utterances are automatically interpreted as speech acts: as assertions, conjectures and testimonies; as orders, requests and pleas; as threats, offers and promises. Surprisingly, the cognitive correlates of this essential component of human communication have received little attention. This book fills the gap by providing a model of the psychological processes involved in interpreting and understanding speech acts. The theory is framed in naturalistic terms and is supported by data on language development and on autism spectrum disorders. Mikhail Kissine does not presuppose any specific background and addresses a crucial pragmatic phenomenon from an interdisciplinary perspective. This is a valuable resource for academic researchers and graduate and undergraduate students in pragmatics, semantics, cognitive linguistics, psycholinguistics and philosophy of language.
Kissine, M., & Klein, O. (2013). Models of communication, epistemic trust and epistemic vigilance. In J. P. Forgas (Ed.), Social Cognition and Communication (pp. 139–154). Psychology Press.
Because most social interactions involve routine use of language, one of the questions that stands prominently on the agenda of social psychology is of how people come to believe what they are told. In particular, it is the bread and butter of persuasion research. But we also come to believe many things others tell us without their necessarily pursuing a persuasive goal. When your neighbor brings up the persistent rain during his holidays in France, you will probably unquestioningly consider his description of the weather as accurate, and so even if you were yourself in Indonesia at the time. In such mundane examples, although the speaker is not pursuing any specifi c persuasive strategy, for the listener, believing the communicated information is a routine activity that constitutes the fabric of social interaction-and makes it possible. And yet, in spite of their importance to social life, such ordinary instances of belief validation have largely fallen out of the scope of social psychology. The most straightforward issue such unexceptional validation processes raise is that of the connection between grasping the content of a statement, and believing it. Obviously, this distinction is not only conceptual as one can mentally represent the reference of false statements (e.g., Brussels lies under the Mediterranean sun) while knowing that they are false. The question is rather how do hearers switch from one to the other. Is grasping without believing always prior to believing? Or do we automatically believe whatever we understand, such that realizing that a statement is false entails unbelieving it?
Kissine, M. (2012). Sentences, utterances, and speech acts. In K. Allan & K. M. Jaszczolt (Eds.), Cambridge Handbook of Pragmatics (pp. 169–190). Cambridge University Press.
Kissine, M. (2012). Pragmatics, Cognitive Flexibility and Autism Spectrum Disorders. Mind & Language, 27(1), 1–28.
Pragmatic deficits of persons with autism spectrum disorders [ASDs] are often traced back to a dysfunction in Theory of Mind. However, the exact nature of the link between pragmatics and mindreading in autism is unclear. Pragmatic deficits in ASDs are not homogenous: in particular, while inter-subjective dimensions are affected, some other pragmatic capacities seem to be relatively preserved. Moreover, failure on classical false-belief tasks stems from executive problems that go beyond belief attribution; false-belief tasks require taking an alternative perspective on the reality. While this capacity is functional in typically developing young children, it is impaired in ASDs. Typically developing children are capable of taking their interlocutor’s perspective into account when communicating, whereas poor cognitive flexibility makes it difficult for persons with ASDs to grasp the inter-subjective character of communicative stimuli. This analysis predicts that those pragmatic processes that amount to merely taking into account salient contextual facts during utterance interpretation, without necessarily adopting the interlocutor’s perspective, may be preserved in ASDs.
Kissine, M. (2012). From contexts to circumstances of evaluation: is the trade-off always innocuous? Synthese, 184(2), 199–216.
Both context relativists and circumstance-of-evaluation relativists agree that the traditional semantic interpretation of some sentence-types fails to deliver the adequate truth-conditions for the corresponding tokens. But while the context relativists argue that the truth-conditions of each token depend on its context of utterance-each token being thus associated with a distinct intension-circumstance-of-evaluation relativists preserve a unique intension for all the tokens by placing circumstances of evaluations under the influence of a certain ’point of view’. The main difference between the two approaches is that only the former can operate locally. It is shown that, for this reason, circumstance-of-evaluation relativism makes erroneous semantic predictions about (relative) gradable adjectives.
Kissine, M., De Brabanter, P., & Leybaert, J. (2012). Compliance with requests by children with autism: the impact of sentence type. Autism, 16(5), 523–531.
This study assesses the extent to which children with autism understand requests performed with grammatically non-imperative sentence types. Ten children with autism were videotaped in naturalistic conditions. Four grammatical sentence types were distinguished: imperative, declarative, interrogative and sub-sentential. For each category, the proportion of requests complied with significantly exceeded the proportion of requests not complied with, and no difference across categories was found. These results show that children with autism do not rely exclusively on the linguistic form to interpret an utterance as a request.
Kissine, M. (2010). Metaphorical projection, subjectification and English speech act verbs. Folia Linguistica, 44(2).
Previous approaches to non-illocutionary uses of speech act verbs (SAVs) concentrated on commissive verbs like promise and threaten, claiming that their non-illocutionary uses result from a subjectification process, and that they therefore describe a subjective relation. Some uses of assertive and directive SAVs do not conform to this pattern: they involve a metaphorical projection whose source domain is the basic level of cognitive apprehension where directive speech acts are perceived as manifestations of an internal necessity and assertive speech acts as direct signs of states of affairs. It is argued that subjectification approaches went wrong when characterising non-illocutionary uses of commissive SAVs in purely subjective terms. Non-illocutionary uses of promise and threaten are better accounted for by a metaphorical projection whose source domain is the conceptualisation of commissive speech acts as highly reliable signs of future states of affairs. \textcopyright Mouton de Gruyter Societas Linguistica Europaea.
Kissine, M. (2009). Illocutionary Forces and What Is Said. Mind & Language, 24(1), 122–138.
A psychologically plausible analysis of the way we assign illocutionary forces to utterances is formulated using a ’contextualist’ analysis of what is said. The account offered makes use of J. L. Austin’s distinction between phatic acts (sentence meaning), locutionary acts (contextually determined what is said), illocutionary acts, and perolocutionary acts. In order to avoid the conflation between illocutionary and perlocutionary levels, assertive, directive and commissive illocutionary forces are defined in terms of inferential potential with respect to the common ground. Illocutionary forces are conceived as automatic but optional components of the process of interpretation
Kissine, M. (2008). Assertoric commitments. Belgian Journal of Linguistics, 22(1), 155–177.
This paper deals with the two kinds of commitment associated with assertive speech acts: the commitment to having justifications for the propositional content and the commitment to the truth of this content. It is argued that the former kind of commitment boils down to the monotonic commitment to the truth of the propositional content, and can be cancelled. The latter, by contrast, is non-monotonic, and is associated with all assertive speech acts, even those containing a reservation marker. These facts can be explained if one (a) endorses the ‘Direct Perception’ view, according to which every piece of communicated information goes, by default, into the hearer’s ‘belief box’; (b) defines the success of assertive speech acts in terms of the possibility to update the common ground with their propositional content.
Kissine, M. (2008). Locutionary, Illocutionary, Perlocutionary. Language and Linguistics Compass, 2(6), 1189–1202.
J. L. Austin’s three-prong distinction between locutionary, illocutionary and perlocutionary acts is discussed in terms of D. Davidson’s theory of action. Perlocutionary acts refer to the relation between the utterance and its causal effects on the addressee. In contrast, illocutionary and locutionary acts are alternative descriptions of the utterance. The possibility of conceiving of locutionary acts as expressing propositions under a certain mode of presentation is discussed. Different ways to define illocutionary acts without encroaching on the locutionary or perlocutionary territory are considered. \textcopyright 2008 The Authors Journal Compilation \textcopyright 2008 Blackwell Publishing Ltd.
Kissine, M. (2008). From predictions to promises. Pragmatics & Cognition, 16(3), 471–491.
This paper attempts to identify general, cross-cultural cognitive factors that trigger the default commissive interpretation of assertions about one’s future action. It is argued that the solution cannot be found at the level of the semantics of the English will , or any other future tense marker, but should be sought in the structure of rational intentions, as combined with the pragmatics of felicitous predictions and with parameters linked to the evolutionary advantage of cooperative behaviour. Some supporting evidence from language development studies is briefly presented.
Kissine, M. (2008). Why will is not a modal. Natural Language Semantics, 16(2), 129–155.
In opposition to a common assumption, this paper defends the idea that the auxiliary verb will has no other semantic contribution in contemporary English than a temporal shift towards the future with respect to the utterance time. Strong reasons for rejecting the idea that will quantifies over possible worlds are presented. Given the adoption of Lewis’s and Kratzer’s views on modality, the alleged ’modal’ uses of will are accounted for by a pragmatic mechanism which restricts the domain of the covert epistemic necessity operator scoping over the sentence. \textcopyright 2008 Springer Science+Business Media B.V.